In Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas, the two dominant newspapers are branching out their coverage in a bid to attract more suburban and Hispanic readers.
Dallas and Fort Worth may be considered a single media market by the TV networks, but, in every other way, they are two distinct cities, separated by 30 miles of highways, suburbs, and business parks.
"There's an old saying that Fort Worth is where the West begins, and Dallas is where the East ends," says Ken Schaefer, president of Dallas-based Blanchard Schaefer Advertising & PR. "The two could be not be more different, and there is extraordinary competition between them."
The battle of the papers
Lately, that area competition has expanded into one between the two dominant newspapers, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, for readers in the surging suburban areas between and north of the two cities.
"If there's any one dominant media trend, it's how the major papers have been expanding their presence by opening bureaus in the suburbs," says Stan Levenson, CEO of Levenson & Brinker PR. "The Dallas Morning News has especially recognized the opportunity and publishes a number of special sections that focus on individual suburbs and counties."
Schaefer stresses that the market is poised for economic growth. Having withstood downturns in energy and banking in the 1980s and the dot-com bust that curtailed the area's emergence as a tech center in the late 1990s, Dallas-Fort Worth has developed into a major Midwest business center.
"We're three hours from each coast almost door to door, and that pretty attractive to a lot of these multinational corporations," says Ruth Fitzgibbons, principal at Richards/Gravelle, the PR arm of The Richards Group, adding that, as a result, Fortune 500 companies ranging from ExxonMobil to JCPenney have established headquarters in Dallas.
Such corporations say the Morning News and Star-Telegram pour a lot of resources into covering specific industries.
"The Dallas Morning News has both an aviation correspondent who covers airlines, as well as a reporter who covers the airport in terms of the city government and what's happening there," says Edna Ruano, PR specialist for Southwest Airlines. "The editorial pages at both papers are also extremely important, so when we began outreach on a debate over the Wright Amendment, which restricts the places you can fly out of Dallas' airport, Love Field, we started with the editorial board."
If there is an 800-pound media gorilla in the market, it's Belo, which not only owns the Morning News, but also the area's ABC-TV affiliate, WFAA. Having shaken off a scandal involving inflated circulation numbers last year, the Morning News is in the process of a massive overhaul of its lifestyle coverage and is also beginning to tweak its Metro section to provide specific content for the towns and neighborhoods that surround the city.
Impact of Hispanic population
But perhaps the biggest trend likely to impact the media going forward is the growth of the Hispanic population. Victor Ornelas, president and CEO of Ornelas & Associates, says that, while only about 25% of the area's population is Hispanic, more than 50% of students in the Dallas Independent School District are Hispanic.
"Latino media in the Dallas area are booming," Ornelas says, adding that the Morning News and Star-Telegram have launched Spanish-language sister papers to go after this new audience.
Isaac Lasky, SVP of market development and PR for Legion Advertising, notes that, unlike cities like San Antonio, where the Hispanic population goes back for generations, many Dallas-Fort Worth Hispanics are recent immigrants. And they tend to rely on Spanish-language radio and television for news. "There's a real hunger for content on employment, immigration, and education issues, as well as on how to adapt to this new world," he says.
Dora Tovar, president of Tovar PR, stresses that, with a mixture of first- and older-generation Hispanics, it's a mistake to adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy. "The presumption is that, once we become English-dominant, that becomes our preference, and the general interest press is the way to reach us," she says. "And it's not. Hispanic print is growing tremendously in the area and is filling a major role for PR people."
Pitching... Dallas and Fort Worth